Nathaniel Dorsky on Stan Brakhage pt I – Canyon Cinema Salon 12/15/2014

photo by Blanche Dorsky, 1967

Canyon Cinema Foundation is pleased to announce the final Salon of 2014 with Nathaniel Dorsky on December 15th, please join us for this special evening at New Nothing Cinema.

The Canyon Cinema Salon Series is a FREE event hosted at New Nothing Cinema (located at 16 Sherman St, off Folsom between 6th and 7th in SOMA).

7:00pm- Reception
7:30pm* – Screening and discussion.
*Note: Street entrance locked at 7:30 – please arrive on time.

Regarding his selection of films for the evening he writes:

I would like to show two films from Canyon’s collection by Stan Brakhage.  In the period preceding Stan’s becoming predominantly a maker of hand painted films he was also making a variety of ventures into the realm of sound filmmaking. The two films I have chosen are to me great masterworks from this time of great change and exploration. They are examples of Stan’s photographed filmmaking at its most manifest. His camera begins to sing, to speak, to tell us things, to tell us stories, to investigate, to reveal both the observed world and the more personal world of mind and light. They are great visual articulations.

We will screen Visions in Meditation Part 2: Mesa Verde (1989, 17 minutes), followed by Visions in Meditation Part 3: Plato’s Cave (1990, 18 minutes).  Both films will be shown as silent films.  Then we will have a discussion and conclude the evening with a second screening with sound of Visions in Mediation Part 3: Plato’s Cave which was intended as a sound film. Some discussion will follow.
P. Adams Sitney’s essay, “Brakhage, Meditative Cinema” in the book Eyes Upside Down (Oxford University Press) contains detailed information concerning the making of this wondrous four part film.

This evening’s program contains the following films by Stan Brakhage:

Visions in Meditation Part 2: Mesa Verde | 1989 | 17 minutes | color | silent | 16mm

This meditation takes its visual imperatives from the occasion of Mesa Verde, which I came to see finally as a Time rather than any such solidity as Place. “There is a terror here,” were the first words which came to mind on seeing these ruins; and for two days after, during all my photography, I was haunted by some unknown occurrence which reverberated still in these rocks and rock-structures and environs. I can no longer believe that the Indians abandoned this solid habitation because of drought, lack-of-water, somesuch. (These explanations do not, anyway, account for the fact that all memory of The Place, i.e., where it is, was eradicated from tribal memory, leaving only legend of a Time when such a place existed.) Midst the rhythms, then, of editing, I was compelled to introduce images which corroborate what the rocks said, and what the film strips seemed to say: The abandonment of Mesa Verde was an eventuality (rather than an event), was for All Time thus, and had been intrinsic from the first such human building.

Visions in Meditation Part 3: Plato’s Cave | 1990 | 18 minutes | color | sound | 16mm

Plato’s cave would seem to be the idee fixe of this film. The vortex would, then, be the phenomenological world – overwhelming, and thus “uninhabitable.” The structures of thoughtful meditation are naturally, therefore, equivocal so that, for example, even a tornado-in-the-making will be both “dust devil” and “finger of God” at one with the clockwork sun and the strands of ice/fire, horizon, rock, clouds, so on. The film is, I believe, a vision of mentality as most people must (to the irritation of Plato) have it, safely encaved and metaphorical, for the nervous system to survive. All the same I hope, with this work, to have brought a little “rush light” into the darkness. The film is set to the three movements of Rick Corrigan’s “Memory Suite.” Its multiple super-impositions are superbly timed by Louise Fujiki, of Western Cine, as usual.

About the artist:

The major part of my work is both silent and paced to be projected at silent speed (18 frames per second). Silence in cinema is undoubtedly an acquired taste, but the delicacy and intimacy it reveals has many rich rewards. In film, there are two ways of including human beings. One is depicting them. Another is to create a film form which, in itself, has all the qualities of being human: tenderness, observation, fear, curiosity, the sense of stepping into the world, sudden murky disruptions and undercurrents, expansion, pulling back, contraction, relaxation, sublime revelation. In my work, the screen is transformed into a “speaking character”, and the images function as pure energy rather than acting as secondary symbol or as a source for information or storytelling. I put shots together to create a revelation of wisdom through delicate surprise. The montage does not lead to verbal understanding, but is actual and present. The narrative is that which takes place between the viewer and the screen. Silence allows these delicate articulations of vision which are simultaneously poetic and sculptural to be fully experienced.

– Nathaniel Dorsky